Some sports rivalries emerge organically, developing from annual games as well as the trading of satisfying wins and frustratingly close losses. Others, however, are now defining institutions that define two schools and their athletics programs. The competition between Cal and Stanford is the latter.
On Monday, the Cal women’s lacrosse team (3-9, 1-4 MPSF) will travel across the Bay to play one of its few remaining games this season, all of which are MPSF conference matchups, against the No. 10 Cardinal (9-2, 4-0) at Stanford.
“We still need to get our first victory on the road,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks. “With four away games coming up, we have four opportunities and hopefully we can take advantage of that. We would like to get an upset this year, and, especially with the teams we have left, we have opportunities.”
The Bears face Stanford on the heels of five consecutive losses, three of which have come against conference opponents. In recent games, they have struggled to maintain strong ball control and have been sloppy both offensively and defensively. They are often unable to keep the ball in their sticks, catch passes cleanly or throw accurately to their teammates, all of which provide their opponents with additional opportunities to shoot on goal and potentially score.
This pattern has resulted in a crippling comeback by the opposing team, such as the Bears’ 7-5 loss against UC Davis after the Aggies scored four unanswered goals in the second half to win the game, and blowouts, as seen in the back-to-back 15-5 conference losses against Oregon and Fresno State.
Despite this, multiple Bears have continued to accumulate relatively impressive statistics. Junior attacker Elizabeth Pellechi and sophomore midfielder Meredith Haggerty have continued to accumulate points and remain the team’s scoring leaders, with 19 and 18 goals, respectively. Meanwhile, junior attacker Jena Fritts continues to lead in assists with 17 in total. The next closest players have only three for the whole season. Freshman goalie Jenny Wilkens has also had a promising rookie season, with at least eight saves in 11 of 12 games this season.
Unlike Cal, the Cardinal have had a winning season. In a sport that is so often dominated by east coast teams, Stanford and few other schools have made a name for themselves as exceptions to that rule. Key to the Cardinal’s success has been their forceful offense. They have two dynamic and consistently effective attackers, junior Kelsey Murray and senior Anna Salemo. Each has a different strong side so they can attack from both sides of the crease and push the opposing goalie to protect the goal from all directions. Sophomore midfielder Kelly Myers is another threat because of her aggressive play, speed and domination in draws.
This may not be the only time this season the Bears play a game at Stanford. Beginning with the quarterfinals round April 28, the top six of 10 MPSF teams will find themselves at Palo Alto to play in the conference championship. In order to have a chance of participating, Cal will need to go undefeated, winning every game left. Testing this objective will be the level of competition the Bears will face in their remaining games and the records of the other teams in the conference.
Sarah Goldzweig covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected]